Response to concerned constituent re: grant-in-aid

On May 20, I requested feedback from the community regarding a donation from the qRD to the Canadian Red Cross from the Grants-in-Aid service. I appreciate all the responses, the large majority of which were supportive, which helped with the finalization of my vote at the Board decision on this donation.

One constituent wrote me the following letter with a request for a public response.  I have redacted their name to protect the privacy of the writer, and included my response below...



Subject: Deeply Disappointed

Hi Andrew,

I've been mustering up all the politeness that I can before I write to you about your unilateral decision to give our tax money to the Red Cross.

I recall you speaking directly to the point of consulting Lasquetians before any new "service" would be implemented or any "service" would be rescinded here.

I also recall you stating that you will organize a Community meeting at your last two virtual Town Halls.

All of that contradicts your decision to give our money away without any consultation.  This a serious violation of our trust in you.  It is not unlike what every other level of government has done, only in this case, you seemed to have made this decision unilaterally.

I ask that you publicly apologize and replace all of that $1,000 with your own money.  You would be most welcome to support any cause that you wish to with your own money.  Other people's money is not yours to play with.  Nor may you ship valuable Community resources off-island.

I truly hope that you will take corrective action so that our Community can regain some trust in you as our elected Regional Director.

Thank you for receiving this and I look forward to hearing back from you very soon.

[Name of writer]



My Response

Dear Constituent,

I understand that you do not support the donation to the Canadian Red Cross. Before the final vote, I asked for feedback from all perspectives, and the large majority of responses that I received were supportive.  However, since I don't want anyone to feel that they are paying for something that is contrary to their principles, I have offered to reimburse the proportional contribution made by any taxpayer or $2, whichever is greater, from my own pocket.

To be absolutely clear: I am unable to make unilateral decisions - all decisions are made by the Board.  I took this decision seriously, as always, and did my best to represent what I believed to be the majority will of taxpayers.

Please allow me to address your other concerns by providing some context...

As regional director, I have worked hard to ensure public consultation regarding the establishment, significant modification, or withdrawal of services; and for the qRD to use feedback from the public to guide decisions. I helped get similar language into our draft OCP, and discussed this at the qRD Board. This is one reason why I encouraged residents to respond to the LIVFD asset management survey, which had a very strong response level. The only major changes to services that affect Lasqueti that have been initiated during my term relate to LIVFD dispatch, on which I have communicated extensively and for which there is upcoming qRD public consultation.

The Grants-in-Aid service is not a new service, and has existed for a long time with no changes. Lasqueti taxpayers contribute to quite a few grants across the qRD (e.g. the Outdoor Recreation Users Group and Powell River Film Festival), as well as to Lasqueti organizations. The grant budget is set as part of the overall budget process on which I provided detailed information at the four Town Halls that I held. The Board considers and votes on grants in open meetings, first at a Finance Committee meeting then at a Board meeting.

I don't recall committing to organizing an additional community meeting at the last two Town Halls (although I did discuss that the qRD would be doing public engagement on the LIVFD asset management and dispatch). As I have done for all my Town Halls, I am happy to include topics of interest raised by community members.

Actions speak louder than words, so here are some actions I have personally taken to mitigate costs to Lasqueti taxpayers:

  • Withdrawal from Regional Cemetery Service: When I was president of the LCA (2013-2019), I included on the 2016 AGM agenda proposed motions to request the qRD to withdraw Lasqueti from the Regional Cemetery Service, and to increase the funding from the qRD to the LCA by an equal amount. This was adopted unanimously by the LCA membership and later accepted by the qRD. Over the past 5 years, this has represented restoration of over $26,000 to benefit Lasqueti instead of being paid for cemeteries that Lasqueti does not use.
     
  • Fall Fairs to offset need for taxpayer funding of community hall: So far, I have co-organized 9 Fall Fairs that have raised over $33,000 for the benefit of the community hall, helping to reduce the need for the LCA to request any increase from the qRD.
     
  • LRS/qRD agreement to share services: I coordinated meetings between the LRS, qRD staff, LIVFD and waste manager that resulted in a service sharing agreement between the LRS and qRD based on a foundation of goodwill and cooperation. This avoided a new septic field behind the firehall, a new energy system, new washrooms, etc. This saved over $100,000 for the recycling depot upgrade and provision of washrooms for LIFVD.
     
  • Clarifying tower costs for NI 9-1-1 (in Campbell River): As chair of the Emergency Dispatch Advisory Committee, I communicated with NI 9-1-1 to ensure that the community had clear information on cost estimates for their service (which requires either one tower on Texada at an estimated cost at the time of about $60,000 and now contrary to the new Texada OCP, or two towers on Lasqueti at an estimated cost at the time of over $500,000).
     
  • Clarifying costs for Northern911 emergency call answer/transfer and fire dispatch service (Ontario; current dispatch system): As regional director, I communicated with Northern911 to confirm cost estimates to implement the Amended Option C dispatch system recommended by dispatch expert C. Kellett (estimated in 2020 at a base cost of about $200/month). This has been implemented and is now included in the LIVFD budget. Further public consultation on dispatch system is forthcoming from the qRD.

All Lasqueti voters will have their say in October to choose their regional director.  I am happy to let my principles, voting record, and actions stand for themselves, and more than glad to step aside if these no longer align with our community values.

Sincerely,

Director Andrew Fall, qathet Regional District
Contact: Tel: 250-333-8595

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